Wrestling: Roster depth heightens expectations for Olentangy Orange Pioneers

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Orange junior Lexi Simmons competed in the inaugural girls state tournament last winter and is among a deep group of returnees for the Pioneers, who have high expectations for their boys and girls teams.

Coach Scott Tressler likes the direction of the Olentangy Orange wrestling program.

In his sixth season leading the Pioneers, Tressler said everything is coming together on the mat and his wrestlers have high expectations.

“It’s exciting to be moving to a new OCC, which is even more challenging,” said Tressler, whose program has moved to the OCC-Central Division from the OCC-Buckeye in the latest round of conference realignment. “Culturally, things are starting to set in with it being our sixth year here. Our expectations are high and the kids are putting in work to reach these goals. We have some freshman kids who have come up through our youth program, and hopefully we see that correlate into varsity success.”

The Pioneers boys team returns five Division I district qualifiers in seniors Dylan Dempsey (220 pounds), Geoffrey Kaminski (195) and Zack Miller (145/152) and juniors Keegan Knapp (145/152) and Connor Svantner (160). 

Knapp placed fifth at 132 in the district tournament to finish 30-8. He was an alternate for the state tournament, which was postponed and later canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Sophomores Luke Behre (120), Logan Butler (145/152) and Nathan Westinghouse (126) also are expected to contribute, as are freshmen Jackson Basnett (138), Jason Burt (138), Dominic Lee (113) and Ben Tong (106).

“We have some high-end experienced guys and some high-end freshmen that can help us take that step that we need to make,” Tressler said. “We have kids that want to wrestle, and that’s the most important thing.”

The Pioneers are scheduled to compete Saturday, Dec. 19, at home against Madison Plains and Watterson.

Assistant coach Brian Nicola helps oversee the girls team, which finished second in the inaugural state tournament last season. The Pioneers scored 122.5 points to finish behind Casstown Miami East (149.5) as 83 teams scored.

Senior Taryn Martin (160/170) returns after becoming the Pioneers’ first state champion in girls or boys wrestling by winning at 137 to finish 19-0. 

Senior Noel Frye (150/160) was fourth at 160, and juniors Lexi Simmons (111) and Aida Walters (143) were sixth at 105 and 150, respectively.

“All of our returners are leaps and bounds above where they were last year, and we have a couple freshmen that can help out immediately,” Nicola said. “We’ll rely heavily on Noel and Taryn, but all of our five seniors are competitive.

“All of the girls have shown great leadership because now is a tough time. They recognize that they all need to work through the bumps. We’re trying to look at every day as an opportunity.”

Also back are senior Emily Duval and sophomores Macy Carroll (126), Ayla Castin (121), Emily McManus (131) and Talia Mitchell (170/189). Sara Borton (111/116) and Casey Homorody (150) round out the senior class.

Freshman Kascidy Garren (137) is the sister of Patrik Garren, who won the Division III boys heavyweight state title at Ready in 2013.

Orange is scheduled to compete in a home dual Thursday, Dec. 17, against Miami East before a home quad Saturday, Dec. 19, against Alliance, Jamestown Greeneview and Watkins Memorial.

Senior Mark Ceddia is expected to compete at 145 pounds for Liberty, which plans to produce another strong season under 14th-year coach Mark Marinelli.

Patriots planning

for strong season

Liberty coach Mark Marinelli has continued to be impressed with how his competitors have handled the adversity of the past few months.

A limited number of the Patriots’ wrestlers competed in national events during the offseason but most stayed focused on individual training.

Liberty is next scheduled to compete Saturday, Dec. 19, at home against Jonathan Alder and plans to travel Wednesday, Dec. 23, to Medina Highland.

“My kids have been awesome,” said Marinelli, who is in his 14th season. “I didn’t do as much at the beginning of the year, so they didn’t get onto the mats until early October and my kids are handling it pretty well. 

“I’m having them wear their masks the whole practice and when we’re in the room I’ve got them separated so that we don’t lose the whole team (if someone tests positive for the coronavirus). I’ve got a great group of seniors coming back.”

The top returnees are seniors Jayce Fitzpatrick (160/170), Hunter Ford (126/132) and Lucas Uliano (152) and sophomore Dylan Russo (220).

Uliano was seventh at state as a sophomore and last winter finished 33-2, including winning a district championship at 145. The Patriots finished third (119) at district behind Dublin Coffman (174.5) and Delaware (127.5).

Ford and Russo also qualified for state last season, as Ford was fourth at district at 120 and finished 34-11 and Russo went 38-5 and placed second at district at 195.

Fitzpatrick, who was a state qualifier as a sophomore, finished 31-12 last winter, while senior Stephen Dirskmeier (160/170) went 20-16 and senior Adam Gintert (126/132) finished 19-13.

Freshmen Prestyn Parks, Jaxson Rosselli and Nick Vittorrini should see time at 106 and 113. Rosselli is the younger brother of Jordan Rosselli, a 2018 graduate and former state qualifier.

Senior Mark Ceddia is expected to be at 145, with freshman Tyler Deericks at 120 and sophomore Luke Fleet at heavyweight.

Others looking to contribute include seniors Andrew Brown (170), Zach Dunbar (170/182), Jack Freitag (160), Luke Reidel (195) and Josh Slingsby (182/195), sophomore Avi Swain (138) and freshmen Broc Fitzpatrick (138) and Brady Quillin (182).

“We have to get a couple guys to the right weight class, but we have a lot of seniors,” Marinelli said. “The guys have been training and lifting. We should be (strong).”

—Jarrod Ulrey

Numbers continue

to grow for Bears

Berlin had its first Division I state qualifiers last winter and coach Josh Heffernan believes that has helped his roster show continued growth in the Bears’ third season.

“We have great numbers and have continued to grow from the start,” Heffernan said. “In year one, we had just under 20, and we had just under 30 last year. We have just under 40 now, so there’s strength in numbers.”

Corey Hill, a 2020 graduate, was the program’s first state qualifier after placing second at 160 at district. Sophomore Evan Butcher was fourth at 106 to also advance to state, but he transferred to Westerville North during the offseason.

The Bears return nine starters led by junior Matt Kirsop (220) and sophomore J.T. Tompkins (195), who were both district qualifiers. 

Also back are senior Evariste Misseou (182) and juniors Matt Barreca (138), Austin Burchinal (heavyweight), Kody Goffin (152), Caiden Hooks (160), Hugh Peterson (170) and Tyler Voinovich (126).

“One of our goals is to constantly rewrite our history and to keep pushing the bar higher,” Heffernan said. “We want to keep pushing forward. The bar keeps getting higher and higher.”

Sophomore Luke Whalen (145) and freshmen Daniel Barreca (120), Peter Emery (106), Luke Martin (113) and Tyson Scharschmidt (132) are likely to be in the lineup.

“We have many freshmen projected as starters and some of them are stronger than the returnees,” Heffernan said. “That says a lot about our middle school programs of Josh Pace at Berkshire and Ross Whitson at Hyatts. They’ve sent us guys that already have good technique and wrestling knowledge.”

Berlin also has Maia Crumb, who was runner-up at 150 in the inaugural girls state tournament last season. The senior is a backup at 160 with the boys, but will compete in the girls postseason.

The Bears were scheduled to have a home dual against Westerville Central on Thursday, Dec. 17, before competing Saturday, Dec. 19, at home against Pickerington Central, Avon and Delta. They are at home Tuesday, Dec. 22, against Amanda-Clearcreek and Central Crossing.

—Scott Hennen

Four district qualifiers 

back for young Braves

Four of Olentangy’s five Division I district qualifiers return — including two who won at least 23 matches — but ninth-year coach Dennis Lyberger said his team will be young overall.

Seniors Ben Hall (152) and Jackson Moses (138) and juniors Gabe Bulugaris (120) and Vaughn Fowler (126) are back for the Braves, who anticipated having a handful of weight classes to fill as the season progressed.

Hall went 24-19 last season and Bulugaris was 23-19.

Senior Ethan Hand, who led the Braves with a 30-11 record, did not return to the team. He has committed to play football at Indianapolis.

“We’re very young and inexperienced this season,” Lyberger said. “The older guys are doing a good job of taking a leadership role. What I really like is the work ethic and enthusiasm. Our strength with the veterans will be in the middle weights. 

“They’re working hard and eager to learn. The wrestlers are very coachable.”

According to Lyberger, other contributors will include seniors Steve Adkins (heavyweight) and Max Nanda (145), juniors Josiah Brooks (152), Titus Conrad (132/138) and Zach Neville (132), sophomores Jarod Razo (132), Colby Shiring (182) and Zach Smith (160) and freshmen Nick Alhalawa (160), Quinn Armstead (132), Braden Markus (126) and Jovani Razo (120).

Olentangy is scheduled to begin OCC-Cardinal competition Jan. 7 at home against Berlin.

—Dave Purpura

sports@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSports

BERLIN

Coach: Josh Heffernan, third season

Top athletes: Kody Goffin, Caiden Hooks, Matt Kirsop and J.T. Tompkins

Key losses: Evan Butcher, Israel Foston and Corey Hill

2019-20 OCC-Cardinal standings: Delaware (7-0), Hilliard Darby (6-1), Hilliard Bradley (5-2), Dublin Jerome (4-3), Berlin (3-4), Dublin Scioto (2-5), Thomas Worthington (1-6), Worthington Kilbourne (0-7)

2020 postseason: Fourth at sectional, 11th at district

LIBERTY

Coach: Mark Marinelli, 14th season

Top athletes: Stephen Dirksmeier, Jayce Fitzpatrick, Hunter Ford, Adam Gintert, Dylan Russo and Lucas Uliano

Key losses: Austin Bensman, Jadon Brownlee, Ben Cox, Nick Rutsky, Ethan Stamp and Kaden Tong

2019-20 OCC-Buckeye standings: Westerville North (5-0), Liberty (4-1), Orange (3-2), Westerville South (2-3), Westerville Central (1-4), Olentangy (0-5)

2020 postseason: First at sectional, third at district

OLENTANGY

Coach: Dennis Lyberger, ninth season

Top athletes: Gabe Bulugaris, Vaughn Fowler, Ben Hall and Jackson Moses

Key losses: Cameron Everson, Ethan Hand and Adam Orndorf

2020 postseason: Sixth at sectional, tied for 34th at district

ORANGE

Coach: Scott Tressler, sixth season

Top athletes: Boys — Luke Behre, Dylan Dempsey, Geoffrey Kaminski, Keegan Knapp, Zack Miller and Connor Svantner; Girls — Noel Frye, Taryn Martin, Lexi Simmons and Aida Walters

Key losses: Boys — Cole Benjamin, Tristan Bluntschly, Ian Krider, Alex Lopez, Cardan Mutai, Nicholas Schoenleb and Josh Young; Girls — Anna Grabau and Alayna Smith

2020 postseason: Boys — Second at sectional, 16th at district; Girls — Second at state